Brighter future for young family in Vanuatu

Churches of Christ Medical Santo is changing lives of those living with a disability and their carers in the communities of Northern Vanuatu. 

Seeing a need to address the difficulties people living with a disability face in some rural and remote towns in Vanuatu, the Churches of Christ Medical Santo team introduced and implemented a Community Based Inclusive Development (CBID) program based on the model developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Meet Robert

Robert* was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, a genetic condition affecting intellectual and physical development. He is the youngest of four children, born in a village on the outskirts of Luganville, Vanuatu. 

When Robert was born his parents felt helpless as they did not understand the condition and whether Robert would be able to grow and develop. His mother said, “Since he was born he’s been very sick….we’ve been looking after him and we thought he would not get better.”

In Vanuatu, and many other countries, a lack of knowledge about the potential of people living with a disability to grow and develop and participate in community life can mean that families lack support and may face barriers to social integration.

But this wasn’t the case for Robert and his family. There was hope for his future.

Support for Robert and his family

Robert was 15 months old when the Medical Santo CBID team first met him. Robert was unable to sit unassisted and his mother was struggling, feeling alone and overwhelmed with caring for her family. 

With the assistance of a Medical Santo CBID worker, Alfred, who provided Robert and his family with support and additional services, Robert’s quality of life improved. The CBID team facilitated a visit by a group of Australian Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy students who were volunteering at the Medical Santo clinic. The students encouraged developmental "play" activities and exercises to help progress Robert's gross motor and cognitive development. Alfred regularly monitors Robert’s mother’s ability to confidently complete these exercises with her son. As a result of these visits, Robert’s mother and family have been providing appropriate stimulation and helping him to learn to sit up independently and be able to interact with his family. 

This support and knowledge has made such a difference to the family who now feel empowered to care for Robert and have hope for his continued development as a bright and happy little boy. Robert’s mum said, “I want to say a big word of thanks to Medical Santo team for coming and giving exercises to Robert and now he’s sitting by himself, thank you so much.”

Medical Santo CBID program

The Churches of Christ Medical Santo CBID program receives support from Churches of Christ in Queensland and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Australian Aid: Friendship Grant. The program addresses the difficulties of people living with disabilities and facilitates improved access to public health services, schools and employment opportunities with the assistance of four local workers. The program employs and trains local people to provide support for people living with a disability in the Northern Province of Vanuatu. They monitor, advise, and support people living with a disability and their carers in their own communities, and connect them with local service provider agencies with the aim of optimising their participation in community life. 

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*name changed to protect the child’s identity.

Posted October 29, 2019 in Our blog